Rider clams up over arson talk

JIMMY ELLINGHAM
Last updated 08:00 16/02/2013

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A former Foxton Racecourse track rider clammed up in the witness box when probed about his recollection of a conversation with arson-accused Kelvin Webb and what he told police about it.

Danny Stamm was again giving evidence in the High Court at Palmerston North yesterday where Webb, 36, is on trial for lighting five fires at the racecourse between November 18 and December 18, 2011.

Webb has pleaded not guilty to five charges of arson. The defence says someone else - probably Mr Stamm - is the arsonist.

Mr Stamm was interviewed by police after the first three fires and told Detective Steve Yates he thought Webb, after drinking, had said something like that he had a history of arson or liked lighting fires.

Defence lawyer Fergus Steedman asked Mr Stamm why he did not tell police about Webb's remarks before the interview.

"Because they wanted to see me anyway about it, so I knew it was going to be coming out in my statement," Mr Stamm said.

"It's all coming out now, mate."

Mr Steedman asked him why he did not tell the police immediately.

"He didn't literally say he was lighting fires around the place. If he had said something like that I would have gone and [seen] the police," Mr Stamm said.

Mr Steedman read several pages of the police interview transcript where Mr Stamm appeared to waver in what he was saying, telling Mr Yates he "wasn't 100 per cent certain" about the conversation or that Webb had said something, yet at another time agreeing he was about 99 per cent sure.

In the interview Mr Stamm also could not remember exactly what Webb had said. When asked by Mr Steedman, Mr Stamm denied he felt pressured by police in the interview or that he was trying to lead the police away from him to "save his own skin".

At one point Mr Stamm seemed to tell Mr Yates that if Webb had a history of arson then it must have been him who made the remarks, "but if he doesn't, then I don't know."

Mr Steedman asked Mr Stamm what he meant. "No comment," he said.

After responding "no comment" to further questions, Mr Stamm said he was honest "as much as I can".

"When are you not honest?" Mr Steedman asked. "No comment."

"Do you have two recent convictions for shoplifting in 2010 and 2012?" "No comment."

Mr Stamm also declined to comment when asked if he liked horses or if he knew when horses would be kept in stables and when they would not be.

Three of the five blazes destroyed racecourse stables on nights when animals were not inside.

The jury asked Justice Jillian Mallon if medical evidence would be produced following a question from Mr Steedman to Mr Stamm on Thursday.

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Mr Stamm was asked why he was looking for moisturiser for his redder than usual face on November 19, the day after the first fire.

He said it was because he shaved without using shaving cream, but Mr Steedman said it was because he was too close to the blaze.

However, Justice Mallon said information received from the police on Thursday night meant it was now known that Mr Stamm was looking for moisturiser on November 12, 2011, a week before the first fire.

The jury should disregard the issue, the judge said.

The trial continues.

- Manawatu Standard

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